The Edge – Volume 62
Surfboard design in one respect seems to be settled in to predictable ideas, but there continue to be surfers and shapers experimenting with modifications and new and improved concepts. Kelly certainly has done that with the shorter, wider concept. Ryan Burch and others continue to be focused on asymmetrical shapes. Tom Curren has been experimenting with, riding and skimming with the alaia and finless boards for awhile now. Stab magazine refers to Tom Curren as the enigmatic man of surf style and he has been seen surfing his finless finesse at Rincon. Curren says, “It’s really fun to be able to go and create virtually anything you can think of, surfing-wise.”
Saw this article from J.P. Currie about Curren and Wegener a few months ago. It focuses on non-traditional fin shapes, bamboo and cork composites, along with some thoughts about going finless. Maybe its time to add an experimental board to your quiver, right next to your new modern fish. Take a peek at this brief review from The Inertia (there are quite a few links embedded in the text if you hover over) …
‘You may noticed that Californian deity Tom Curren has been riding some fairly weird watercraft recently. Tom is an eclectic chap at the best of times, and I’m sure when you reach his level of mastery you want to mix things up a bit. Curren has mixed up surfing and skimboarding, and the board he has been riding is less of a surfboard and more of a Frankenstein’s monster with various detritus stuck to it for flotation. It seems he might have gone as far as he can with his homemade creations and is now seeking shapers to take his ideas to the next level.
First, he approached Kevin Olsen in Capberton, France where he experimented with bamboo and cork boards in an attempt to recreate the skim influenced design. Dr. Curren then took his monster to wooden surfboard aficionado Tom Wegener in Noosa, Australia. Of course, Wegener was thrilled, as evidenced by his fascinating Instagram posts charting the development process. As a shaper, there can be no greater joy than seeing your creations under the feet of a true artist, especially if that artist has commissioned you.
Wegener initially made 3 versions of the board for Curren, each with the same rocker and same finely foiled rails, but with different flex patterns. According to Wegener, the flex of the boards is what Tom Curren is most interested in.
Curren also enlists non-traditional fin shapes on his boards. These unique designs, known as biomimetic fins, are made exclusively by a company called S-Wings working from Guethary, France. As with the boards, the flex is the key aspect of S-Wings fins.
(In case you’re wondering, as I was, according to Wikipedia: “Biomimetics or biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems.”)
Dylan Heyden has written about (and surfed) the S-wings before, and Curren has been hooked on the designs since 2015 when he borrowed some whilst on a Rip Curl trip in Morocco with Mason Ho. He initially used the fins on a MR twin shape belonging to Mason and felt that the fins improved the performance of the board. When he began experimenting with the skim designs he got in touch with S-Wings to get some of his own.
We reached out to Xabi Lafitte of S-Wings to find out what makes these fins work so well with the skim/surf designs. “The outline of a skimboard is so round, when you try to put the rail on the water, there’s very little rail in contact and it’s impossible to control,” Lafitte told The Inertia. “The S-wings fin design gives much more drive and propulsion.”
Xabi says that the advantages of the S-Wings designs are apparent on all boards but particularly effective on low rocker designs to give control and propulsion out of turns. He went on to praise the “open minds” of Wegener and Curren and expressed his pleasure at being a part of this unique collaboration.
“They understood it’s all about flex to navigate like a fish,” said Lafitte. “We are really proud to be part of this experiment, and evolution of surfing.” Perhaps these skim inspired surf designs and unique fin shapes are the next evolution in design, or perhaps they’re reserved for deities. It’s all too true that good surfers can make any board look good. Either way, I’d be willing to bet the more we see Curren on them, the more likely it is that others will want them.
It’s also likely that over the next few years surfboard shapes will evolve radically. The artificial wave arms race will undoubtedly change the boards under our feet alongside our interpretation of what surfing actually is. With a constant and repeatable canvas, aerial surfing will progress to levels we can’t yet predict. The equipment we currently ride in the ocean is not suitable for the type of surfing we will see in the future. And it follows that boards will become much shorter, lighter, and more finely foiled in order to draw lines on the wave face and spin in the air in ways that would not be possible on the clunky, awkward boards of today.
Tom Curren never appears to be a man who craves attention or revels in the spotlight but, perhaps unwittingly, he may have found himself at the zenith of the next major evolution in surfboard design.’